West: Spring appears to have arrived in the south west

After months of incessant rain it looks like spring may well have arrived in the last few days. We have now had three consecutive days without rain, which is the first such period since well before Christmas. The ground on the whole has coped with the weather remarkably well with many fields travelable even in the wet spell but there are still a considerable number of crops where access will not be possible for a little while yet. This is posing a few problems for some crops as they are crying out for a first nitrogen top dressing.

The winter oilseed rape crop is quite variable in terms of size and development, with Green Area Indeces ranging from 0.5 to 1.5. The more forward crops are rapidly approaching the green/yellow bud stage. These crops will soon be receiving a fungicide/PGR application. Phoma is not much in evidence. This is probably due to well timed autumn fungicides, which by and large were applied before the prolonged wet spell.

A few crops are showing unwelcome infestations of charlock which has done well, as applications of Fox (bifoenox) have not been made due to the weather. The only other weeds that seem to be chasing through the pre-emergence herbicides are mayweeds and cleavers. Those crops affected will have received or are receiving  an application of Galera (clopyralid + picloram) to control these two problem weeds.

The winter wheat crop is all over the place in terms of development. Late drilled crops in wet fields are looking in need of help, as they are poorly tillered and looking stressed, whilst early drilled crops (early Sept) have already reached growth stage 31. Most crops, however, are sat somewhere in between and are looking as if they have a lot of potential. Unlocking this potential is going to rely on good disease and lodging management this year. Most crops are carrying a very heavy burden of Septoria tritici. To get on top of this crops are going to need a robust fungicide programme, starting with a well timed T0 application.

The more forward crops will start receiving this application from mid-March onwards. With many crops having been drilled earlier this year and with no cold winter weather to hold growth in check, lodging could be a major problem this year. A more robust approach to lodging will be needed as compared to last season. So far I haven’t seen any signs of the predicted brown and yellow rust epidemic, but this may well be because the Septoria has finished off the leaves before the rusts had a chance. With no frost in the forcast we will still need to be vigilant against the rusts but a good Septoria fungicide programme should also keep the rusts pegged back.

Winter barley crops in general are looking very promising. They are well tillered and are continuing to find sufficient mineralised N as they have maintained growth and colour all the way through and have not gone that awful yellow that they can in a wet spell. The wet and mild weather has meant that Cassia has come through the winter with a very heavy loading of Rhynchosporium. This has always been the fear with Cassia, that with a poor Rhyncho rating if we had a wet and mild winter it’s weakness would be exposed. This has certainly happened with a vengeance this year. Glacier, California and Florentine are all much cleaner than Cassia, but Rhyncho can currently be found in all winter barley crops. Many of these crops will start to receive a To application of fungicide within the next fortnight.

Pre-emergence herbicides in the cereals have worked extraordinarily well this year with many crops requiring no further herbicide application at the moment. The excessive wet has suppressed germination of some weeds and I am sure that in the fulness of time these will appear. I am thinking primarily of wild oats. I have many fields where these are a known problem but as yet they have not put in an appearance.

If the weather remains as forecast I would expect some spring drilling to have started by the time this blog goes to press. Let’s hope that the weather going forward will be onside and not be too dry or wet.

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